Leviathan Jewish Journal at UC Santa Cruz

Beet Borscht

Recipe by Mary Roche

Illustrated by Nina Scherer (Instagram/Twitter: @nuheyenuh)


The other day it was a little chilly and rainy and I came across a photo of a sumptuous looking bowl of borscht in my Twitter feed. With all the cooking we have been doing in quarantine, many of us are proud of our culinary creations and display them online. I for one, have not been an inspired chef during the shut-in. I have been in a rut—heating up frozen veggie burgers and tater tots every other night for the past several weeks. Seeing that photo sparked a strong hankering for beets, and I just so happened that I had some in my fridge.

Beets are toothsome, wholesome, and naturally sweet. Here in Santa Cruz, every season is a beet season. Not only are they available all-year-round, but they can also be served in a number of ways and at different temperatures to coincide with the weather. Beet borscht is a dish that can be served hot or cold, and for the sometimes-erratic nature of weather here in Santa Cruz, it seemed like the perfect dish to serve warm on our rainy evening, and have the option to serve the leftovers cold the next day.

Before you roll up your sleeves for this recipe, there is one thing to keep in mind while working with this beautiful and versatile root vegetable. They are messy. I suggest that you wear latex gloves to keep your hands from getting stained for a few days.  Furthermore, I don’t recommend wearing any clothing that you’re particularly attached to.  Guess who learned the hard way so you don’t have to?

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of soup stock (This can be vegetable, chicken or beef)
  • 3 cups of water
  • 6 medium-sized red beets, peeled and shredded
  • 3 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 3 Tbsp. of olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 ribs of celery, diced
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 cube of vegetable bouillon
  • 2 tsp. Thyme  
  • 1 Tbsp. of lemon juice or vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • *Garnish with sour cream and chives

Directions:

Start by making the soup base. In a large pot or Dutch oven, coat the bottom with the olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil gives off a nice, fruity aroma, add the diced onion, celery, and carrot and sauté until the vegetables are a little glossy. Add the bay leaf, thyme, and some salt and pepper. Add the minced garlic. I would adjust the heat so that the garlic doesn’t burn. Make sure to stir the mixture frequently. Your kitchen will start to smell pretty nice at this point, which is your cue to add the soup stock, the vegetable bouillon, and the water. You can bring the heat back up to create a simmer.

Once the soup base is at a near boil, add the potatoes and shredded beets. Bring the mixture to a boil for about five minutes, then lower the temperature and let the soup simmer gently on medium-high heat for about 30 minutes. I would taste the broth and season with the lemon juice or vinegar along with salt and pepper to your liking.

Once the potatoes are fork-tender, the soup is ready.  For best results, garnish with a generous dollop of sour cream and chives. 


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